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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 22-29

Emergency mental health calls to first responders following a natural disaster: Examining the effects from Hurricane Harvey

1 Menninger Department of Psychiatry, Baylor College of Medicine, Tampa, FL, USA
2 Baylor College of Medicine Center of Excellence in Health Equity and Research, Tampa, FL, USA
3 Department of Family and Community Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine; Department of Gynecology, College of Public Health, Morsani College of Medicine, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA
4 Department of Houston Health, Houston, Tx, USA

Correspondence Address:
Dr. John Saunders
One Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX 77030
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/IJAM.IJAM_71_20

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Introduction: Hurricane Harvey which made landfall on August 25, 2017 was a devastating storm that dumped unprecedented amount of rainfall on the area including Houston, Texas, United States of America. There are limited data about emergency service mental health utilization following disaster events. The goal for this project was to examine mental health calls to emergency medical services (EMS) and to the Houston Police Department following Hurricane Harvey. An analysis looking at this utilization following a natural disaster represents an understudied area and can potentially provide information about city services and community psychiatric services in the acute period following the event. Materials and Methods: Total number of calls to the police department and mental health calls to the police department described as crisis intervention calls (Crisis Intervention Team) were obtained from August 1, 2016 to October 31, 2016 and January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017. Emergency detention orders (EDO) per date were obtained from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017. Data for mental health calls based on the primary impression of mental health complaint were obtained from the Houston Fire Department for EMS from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2017. Results: There was a statistically significant increase in the number of mental health calls to the police following Hurricane Harvey. When comparing the prestorm, active storm, and poststorm period, there was not a statistically significant difference in the number of EDOs or the number of EMS mental health calls. Conclusions: The increase in police mental health calls suggests that there may have been an increase in the acuity of the mental health calls to EMS around in evaluating calls surrounding the period of Hurricane Harvey. The following core competencies are addressed in this article: Medical Knowledge and Patient Care.

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